Even after it is finished, there is still that which remains unknown and undone.
She is gone, and the room is silent except for the distant murmurs of people yet living: trays, wheels, snippets of words, soft soled shoes. And yet, somehow she is not gone.
Lois lies in repose. I watched her grow still. I heard her withdraw, leaving softly for her own private quietude. That which I knew as ‘she’ is resting on the bed. Gone. Not gone.
Her face is drawn now, and waxen. Her head and torso are elevated and her blood has yielded to gravity. Pale cheeks will never again flush with joy or with pleasure, eyes will never again dance with mischief or flow with rivers of unbearable pain.
In the stillness and in her quiet, the regal purple gown glows more brightly, a radiance even more present in death than it was in life. Queen Lois, gone to meet her King. Gone.
Her hands no longer flutter, her lungs no longer gently pull on the surrounding air to feed oxygen to her cells, her heart is unmoving – atria and ventricles at rest – and they say that this is dead.
But dead is not the same as absent. She lingers. There is still something of her here. It is not spirit. There is no shimmer in the air. There is no rustling of drapes. Breezes do not manifest as if to suggest a presence. She is not a ghost or a specter.
No. Instead, she is an echo, a gentle ripple of the intangible. There is a sense without any feeling, a filled space that is not even a space.
But perhaps it is just me. Perhaps it is me wondering if it would be like this again, with this most recent passing of life that I have seen.
A gentle kiss on her now cool forehead.
Rest well, Mom. You did good. I’m proud of you. Rest well.
I sit in the overflowing emptiness. A nurse quietly eases the door closed to give me time. I suddenly have nothing but time. Lois, my focus, my reason for months, has gone.
I pull out my phone. I set it down. And again I set it down.
I now sit five feet from her. I watch. She is quiet. She has never been this quiet, not even in sleep.
Stretch. Stand. Unfold slowly from the chair, one weary limb at a time. Right arm, left arm, left leg, right. Walk to the door simply to look out, to see what still moves.
Walk to the door. Even these steps are part of this magnificent journey that we have been on. Even these few steps tell me that it is still not done, not even in the stillness where I alone am all that moves.
A sign has appeared on the door, silently placed by unseen hands.
Please do not enter this room until you check with the nurse.
I whisper a simple prayer: Thank you.
A peak and a trough of time pass over me, burying me in a wave that I cannot see. I phone my son.
Hey Bud. We’re there. We’ve reached the end. Granny passed away at about 3:45…
More waves. More troughs. More calls.
The door gently opens and a nurse returns.
I’m sorry. Is it okay if I come in? I have to remove the IV before the funeral home driver arrives. He’ll be here in about half an hour. Is that enough time?
Yes, please come in. I’ll be ready.
She is quick, quiet. She is efficient. She is gentle with Mom who is no longer Mom.
I’m sorry for your loss.
I am frozen in time, locked in this moment. There are no tears – not yet. I am not ready for tears.
I am spent. I am wholly without spirit. There is nothing left. There is nothing left to feel. I have given it all, I have known worlds without end in each of the last four months and I am once again an uncarved block, waiting for a new shape to emerge.
And as I wait, there is that which remains unknown and undone. It will never be done.
21 years later Mike is not done. Nathan is not done. Chelsea is not done. Even after 40 years, Rick is not done. Nor are Dad or Gran or Launi.
There is always that which remains, that which sits quiet, just out of reach, that which is more than memory and less than a feeling, that which simply is.